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The one joy in the lives of a mother and daughter comes from the regular letters sent to them from Paris from the family's adored son, Otar. When the daughter finds out that Otar has died suddenly, she tries to conceal the truth from her mother, changing the course of their lives forever. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
There is a famous photograph, taken in 1852, of three grieving British queens: dowager Queen Mary, Queen Mother Elizabeth, and the not yet crowned reigning Queen Elizabeth. They are mourning the death of King George VI -- a son, a husband, a father. They are clad in black from head to toe, veils and widow's weeds. They are stony-faced in their own individual grief, yet huddled together to give each other comfort.
"Since Otar Left" is like that: a portrait of three generations of grief, and how a Georgian grandmother, mother, and daughter evolve from handling that grief in their own way, to showing concern for the sadness and loss of the other two women.
Of the three, middle-aged Marina is the most grounded in reality, no-nonsense, down to earth. She worries about the day-to-day things: how to keep body and soul together when her brother Otar dies and is no longer able to supplement the family's income. She worries about her mother's health, staying by her bedside and massaging her feet in a very physical and intimate expression of love and caring. She swallows her pride and borrows money from her erstwhile lover, an antiquities dealer, and even considers selling the leather-bound, gold-stamped volumes of French literature that are her father's legacy.
Young Ada responds differently. At first, she is affected in a practical way: mourning makes it difficult for her to concentrate at school, and the loss of income from her brother causes her to resort to petty theft. But she uses her creativity and imagination, and draws inspiration from the same French literature that Marina wants to sell. Ada reinvents her dead brother and clothes him in the brightness of Paris, City of Lights -- the city to which he emigrated and in which he tragically died.
Elderly Eka seems like a combination of the two. Like Marina, she is tough as nails. An early scene shows Eka relishing a rather large piece of cake, and bristling when Marina helps herself to a forkful. We see that, beneath her outward appearance as a kindly old lady with fine white hair, Eka can be petulant and stubborn. She has an iron will and a spine of steel. When she fails to hear from her son Otar for several months, she takes matters into her own hands and decides to go to Paris to find him. Eventually, she learns the truth that he is dead. We see her grief in her sad eyes and her suddenly tired old body. But then Eka surprises us by rising above her own bereavement and reaching out to those who remain.
"Since Otar Left" is a powerful, touching, heart-rending, yet hopeful film. Its characters transcend the realm of celluloid and screenplay, and emerge as well drawn, fully rounded human beings. In the face of death, they respond with the vitality of life. In the face of despair, they shine as beacons of hope. And in the face of loss, they learn the lesson of love.
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